It was a simple walk to the local ice cream shop. The distance of two blocks didn’t require a car. My three kids each had the hand of either a parent, an aunt, or a grandparent. My wife had taken this walk from her childhood home several times growing up and it was fun to be able to do the same with our kids. The hot summer sun blazed above as humidity in the air hinted it might rain. Getting to the ice cream shop everyone got a dipped cone to cool off from the heat of the day.
Selling our house to travel the world
The heat reminded me of all the work Amanda and I have been doing in and around our house for the past two weeks. Less than three weeks ago we made the decision to sell our house and downsize so we could focus our time and energy on our goal of slow travel. Before we can list the house for sale we want to fix several years worth of home repairs that have accumulated. We have replaced broken appliances, replaced a fence, fixed holes in walls, and tended to the landscaping. There is no deadline for these repairs to be finished, but when we get a goal in our minds we charge forward full speed. That’s how we operate.
One step toward selling the house is that our family cat would be going to live with Amanda’s sister permanently. We drove four hours each way in the same day to deliver the cat to her new home and spent some time with Amanda’s parents while we were in town.
If you don’t follow the script you’re broken
When we first arrived at my in-laws house we sat in the living room talking and catching up. I didn’t know if Amanda’s dad knew about our latest news so I told him we had finally paid off all of our debt and were selling our house as the next step toward our goal to travel. He said that he’d heard our plan and let me know that he doesn’t agree with our decision.
His next statements were a combination of random statistical percentages to support his opposition and anecdotes from when he was a police officer of the dangers of apartment life. In his eyes we are leaving a place of status and security to go somewhere that only broken families live. We are leaving a house he can show off to his friends as proof that his daughter and son-in-law are successful and going to a situation far less fortunate. Regarding our plan to slow travel he let me know that everyone he has met who grew up moving around the world has regrets that they didn’t have a more stable childhood. Obviously we are moving toward being very unstable and it would affect our kids.
I asked him if he wanted to know why we are making this decision so that he could hear about our hope for experiencing other cultures and connecting with ministries around the world. He ended the conversation by saying “nothing I say will change your mind so why talk about it?”
Instead of being understood I felt dismissed as a failure and branded no better than a deadbeat dad who is neglecting his family. I felt put down and rejected.
Indignation rose up inside of me with things I wanted to say in my defense: Does it matter that we have three happy and healthy children? Do you know that I’ve almost tripled my income this year? We are celebrating our tenth anniversary in three months and we are happily married and more unified than ever before!
But I didn’t say any of those things.
He announced he would buy dipped cones for everyone and we all walked down the street. As we walked back from the ice cream shop Amanda’s dad asked if we had heard that a cousin had divorced her husband and since remarried. We answered that we hadn’t heard the news. He said “Yeah, she lives in an apartment now.” I said “Well, I guess that proves your statistics.”
The visit came to an end and we got in our car for the long drive home.
Not Seeking to Understand, Not Being Understood
It took me most of the drive home to process the conversation. I didn’t know why it was such a big deal to me. Amanda wasn’t bothered by it. I didn’t go into the day seeking approval or validation from my father-in-law, but I did want him to understand why we are doing what we are doing. Being a digital nomad is very new and a far stretch from the career paths my father-in-law had. I was willing to describe the awesome opportunities provided by working on the internet, give some examples and answer any questions he had. I don’t know why he didn’t seem to care at all about our dreams.
When we got home Amanda pointed me to a quote from Jon Acuff’s book Start. Jon talks about having dreams and how this relates to your family and friends.
How can we carry dreams in our heart for years, maybe even decades, and then expect our friends and family members to understand them perfectly?
Don’t be surprised by that.
Don’t be devastated by that.
Don’t think it’s because you’ve failed to explain it the right way.
There’s going to be some degree of disconnect.
It’s your dream, not theirs. Give them the gift of patience. Give them time to understand your dream.
This blog will celebrate it’s one year anniversary in a few days. Amanda and I have been talking about our dream of being digital tentmakers for much longer than a year. It’s only through the blogging process that we’ve been able to articulate our mission statement and figure out what it will look like in real life. We joke that we have probably talked about our mission statement every day for several years.
Thinking back to all of those conversations I don’t remember any of them where my father-in-law was present. He hasn’t traveled the same road we have. He hasn’t received the same calling we have. I can’t expect him to fully understand our motivations and goals. Our dream is not his dream. He loves his daughter and his grandkids and wants the best for them. Instead of feeling hurt and accused I’m going to be patient and give him as much time as he needs to understand that he and I both want the same thing.